SpaceX’s new support ships, Firefly Alpha in-flight anomaly, Virgin Galactic grounded & more Top stories

This week, SpaceX’s new ships arrived in Florida while Firefly had their first launch that ended in failure. Virgin Galactic has been grounded by the FAA along with more Top stories this week.

SpaceX’s new Ships Bob and Doug

SpaceX acquired two new ships, Bob and Doug, to serve as fairing recovery and droneship support vessels. The two ships went to Port Fourchon for preparation but Hurricane Ida quickly came down on the area. Doug left for Cape Canaveral in time to escape the storm, but Bob stayed in Port Fourchon and took the brunt of the storm.

Doug in Port Canaveral. Credit: Jared Locke for Space Explored

Doug arrived in Port Canaveral late Monday night. Bob left Fourchon a few days after the hurricane, bound for the Port of Tampa rather than Canaveral. Saturday afternoon, Bob pulled into Tampa bay. Bob was missing one satellite dome, while another was completely missing. Overall, this is impressively little damage given the 150+ mph winds the ship sat in for extended periods of time.

A Shortfall of Gravitas Supports first mission

One of SpaceX’s other new ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, recently completed its first mission. A Shortfall of Gravitas(ASOG) is SpaceX’s new autonomous spaceport droneship. Travels out to sea and serves as a floating platform for Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy boosters to land on. ASOG’s first mission was the Space Station resupply mission CRS-23. The droneship came into Port Canaveral carrying Booster B1061-4 on Tuesday.

Firefly’s First launch of the Alpha rocket

On Thursday, Firefly had their first launch attempt. Their Alpha rocket was targeting a 9:59p.m. EDT liftoff from SLC-2W at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Shortly after the vehicle went supersonic, there was an anomaly in flight. The rocket flipped end over end then exploded. Video released later by Firefly gave more insight into the issue.

The true issue began just a few seconds into flight. An engine shutdown prematurely but the rocket continued to accelerate. The issue became more clear when once the vehicle went supersonic. The changing aerodynamic forces caused Alpha to flip end over end, before the range safety officer sent the command to terminate the flight- resulting in the explosion.

Inspiration4 nears flight

Jared Isaacman in the Cupola. Credit: NASA

In just ten days, the first all civilian mission will fly. We recently got a first look at the Cupola that will provide a brilliant view of Earth for the crew. Also on the mission, they will be making use of multiple Apple products to conduct a health study on the mission. They will be using Apple Watches to gather ECG, including heart rate, blood oxygen, and cabin noise.

To keep up to date will the mission, you can follow the Inspiration 4 podcast series Mission of a Lifetime, along with the soon-to-be-released Netflix documentary.

Virgin Galactic grounded by FAA

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos to space with his flight to space on Unity 22. Unfortunately, some details recently were released confirming that the flight did not go as smoothly as previously thought. The flight deviated from the planned flight path and exited the designated airspace for the flight for a minute and forty-one seconds. As a result, the FAA grounded Virgin Galactic pending a completed investigation.

Copyright Virgin Galactic (2018) VSS Unity’s 7th Glide Flight in Mojave, CA on Jan. 11, 2018.

Virgin Galactic is hoping for some good press, though, as they announced their next flight will carry members of the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council in order to study microgravity.

SpaceX’s Starlink internet providing constellation of satellites will open up many possibilities for the future. Once the next-generation satellites with laser interconnects are active Starlink will be able to provide internet to almost anywhere on Earth, regardless of how close a user is to a ground station. This means SpaceX could provide internet to countries that restrict their citizens’ internet access.

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